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Using Digital Libraries Non-Visually: Understanding the Help-Seeking Situations of Blind Users

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IRAIEJ Volume 20, Number 2, ISSN 1368-1613


Introduction: This study explores blind users' unique help-seeking situations in interacting with digital libraries. In particular, help-seeking situations were investigated at both the physical and cognitive levels. Method: Fifteen blind participants performed three search tasks, including known- item search, specific information search, and exploratory search, using the selected digital library. Pre-questionnaire, pre- and post-interviews, transaction logs and think-aloud protocols were used to collect data. Analysis: Open coding analysis was used to identify help-seeking situations the physical and cognitive levels. Results: The study identified seventeen help-seeking situations that blind users encountered while using digital libraries, including nine at the physical level and eight at the cognitive level. To be more specific, physical help-seeking situations were categorised into: 1) difficulty accessing information, 2) difficulty identifying current status and path, and 3) difficulty evaluating information efficiently. Cognitive help-seeking situations were classified into: 1) confusion about multiple programs and structures, 2) difficulty understanding information, 3) difficulty understanding or using digital library features, and 4) avoidance of specific formats or approaches. Conclusion: The identified help-seeking situations reveal a gap between current digital library design practices and special needs of blind users. Practical implications for the design of help features for more blind-friendly digital libraries are suggested based on the findings.


Xie, I., Babu, R., Joo, S. & Fuller, P. (2015). Using Digital Libraries Non-Visually: Understanding the Help-Seeking Situations of Blind Users. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal, 20(2),. Retrieved July 4, 2022 from .

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